Anatomy of Fall
Fall protection is a very critical topic in the field of people who deal with occupational safety. There are several websites, blogs, newspapers, social media pages or groups and established companies that are dedicated to addressing the issue of fall protection.
Although some of these topics about fall protection in some blogs or social media groups may sound like a few hours course from an OSHA pamphlet, they are extremely critical to both small and large business enterprises.
Falls top the list of most construction and occupational fatalities witnessed in various organizations and residential areas every year. Instead of getting better over time due to advancements in technology, the situation seems to be getting out of hand. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that occupational fatalities rose by 11 percent from 2013 to 2014.
It’s mysterious how falls to a lower level remain high like that if workers in various workplaces understand why the falls occur. Most workers remain vigilant and know how to prevent falls but they still keep happening. Maybe understanding the fall itself may help prevent these falls and perhaps reduce those appalling numbers! Here is an in-depth step-by-step look at what happens in a fall.
Before a fall
Supervisors and workplace managers take out enough time to hold meetings, assign employees various tasks and distribute machinery or equipment in readiness for executing projects at their places of work every morning. However, certain decisions made at this stage could lead to a fall. It’s at this stage that some workers make a mistake of climbing to an elevated workstation without fall arrest systems in place.
Unfortunately, workers make the mistake to climb to these heights because of negligence or because they are not trained to install their fall arrest systems properly. Perhaps the management controls knew that certain proper precautions had to be taken but decided to put production ahead of safety measures. Maybe a worker brought the necessary lanyard or harness but forgot to hook up to the anchor point before the climb. In other words, most falls will occur due to lack of proper planning.
During the fall
Most people tend to believe that they have good reaction time during the moment of a fall or they have good balance to sustain a potential fall. However, the truth is agility and good reaction time can’t help in stopping a fall because losing balance has nothing to do with the fall itself. A platform can slip away, or some unexpected object might knock off a worker accidentally and destabilize his or her grip.
Some of the fall victims have certain medical conditions like high blood pressure or sudden seizures that can attack them while still working in elevated workstations. Sometimes a gust of wind can pick up and accidentally sweep off a worker on a rooftop. In such a situation, even the most experienced worker cannot withstand a fall. Balance can’t protect a worker from falling if he or she didn’t see the fall coming. Of course, one can hold on to something steady and prevent the fall, but how can he do that if he just fell outright?
Falls result in fatalities because of the intensity of an impact after the fall. In fact, even those who survive falls may end up facing very challenging medical conditions for the rest of their lives. A fall has the potential of causing serious concussions, brain injuries or severe problems to the body’s internal organs. These injuries can lead to a coma, permanent disabilities or even death.
A NIOSH study found out that about 25 percent of fatalities caused by falls were from small heights of about six to ten feet fall off a ladder. Therefore, one doesn’t have to fall from a five storey building or more to sustain serious life-threatening injuries. Being able to get up or survive after a fall is a very rare exception that only happens to the lucky few.
No minimum height rule
It’s critical to understand the no minimum height rule. There are no exceptions for allowing workers to work in dangerous environments where there is a fall hazard without the necessary fall protection solutions or machine guarding needs. Most of the construction sites have no basic rules for exceptions as is the case with manufacturing floors.
It’s easier to recognize a fall hazard in a manufacturing plant and erect or install a permanent railing as a safety measure. But in a construction workplace that does dynamic, recognizing such a hazard is quite tricky, and thus workers need to be protected at all times.
The immediate reaction after a fall is dialing emergency numbers like 911 for help, people scrambling around to save the injured while others watch in disbelief. In such panicky moments, people might react in such a manner that puts them and others in danger because they are reacting without thinking clearly about what just happened.
Machine operators may leave running machines unattended to, and dash for safety and friends or colleagues may take unsafe measures to try and save an injured worker. These moments are very critical because they can predispose other workers to the same fall exposure that just encountered a colleague at the workplace. Shortly after, there will be the notification on whether the fall was fatal or not.
Depending on the details from the doctor, there are workers who may not be able to return to the same job ever again because they’re traumatized. In other words, a single workplace fall can be devastating to the supervisors, friends, family members and colleagues at work for a long period. A fall can be life-changing to the victims and the survivors as well.
Marriages fall apart, people lose livelihoods, and physiological issues creep in whenever someone gets involved in a fall. There needs to be the willingness and vigilance to learn and adhere to the set standard rules or regulations. Management of various workplaces ought to ensure workplace inspections are conducted on a regular basis to confirm whether processes and equipment comply with the OSHA requirements and other industry regulations.